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Death Toll Tops 430 From Indonesia Tsunami, Volcano


Police carry a recovered body in the Muntei Baru Baru village on Indonesia's Mentawai islands
The death toll has risen to more than 430 from the tsunami and volcano disasters that have hit Indonesia.

Officials say hundreds of people are still reported missing after the tsunami wave hit the remote Mentawi islands following a 7.5-magnitude earthquake on October 25, sweeping away villages.

The death toll includes victims from the next day's eruption of Mount Merapi, located some 1,300 kilometers to the east of the tsunami disaster zone in central Java. Reports say those killed in the volcano eruption are believed to include a revered elder who served as the ceremonial guardian of the moutain's spirits.

Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is visiting the tsunami-hit Pagai island on October 28 to oversee relief efforts.

Yudhoyono returned from an Asian leaders’ summit in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi. Speaking to journalists in Padang, in western Sumatra, he said that the government would continue its emergency relief operations to save lives.

"Firstly, [I will] meet my people who lost their loved ones, secondly [I'll work] to ensure all emergency relief operations are conducted properly. You know that this morning, we also conducted air-drop operations," Yudhoyono said.

A group of surfers, eight Australian and one New Zealander, arrived at a port in Padang on October 27 after their boats, "Midas" and "Freedom III", collided in the aftermath of the tsunami.

The collision caused a fire on "Midas." Awang, assistant captain on the charter boat, "Freedom III," told Reuters, "We anchored 50 meters from the shore and suddenly I saw a very high wave, as high as three to four meters. The other boat hit our boat and it caught fire."

Also today Rob Marino, one of those caught in the boat explosion, left Indonesia in a wheelchair. He recounted how they saved themselves from the high waves.

"So we escaped the boat explosion, and then we were in the water, and then we got washed up into the trees with the tsunami, and then we had to climb trees to avoid drowning. So, pretty traumatic," Marino said.

The quake hit 78 kilometers west of South Pagai, one of the Mentawai islands, late on October 25.

An official with the regional branch of the Department of Fisheries said that most buildings in the coastal village of Betu Monga were destroyed. He added that 80 percent of the houses in the area were damaged and food supplies were low.

The Mount Merapi volcano remains a no-go zone. Though the volcano was calmer than the previous day, authorities kept the area on the highest alert status and told residents to stay away. The eruption left the area under a blanket of volcanic ash.

Many of the evacuees staying in 23 shelters in the area were suffering from breathing problems, eye and skin irritations, and dizziness.

Indonesia sits in the seismically active Pacific ''ring of fire,'' a series of fault lines stretching from the Western Hemisphere through Japan and Southeast Asia.

In December 2004, a tsunami caused by an earthquake of more than 9 magnitude off Sumatra killed more than 226,000 people. It was the deadliest tsunami on record.

with agency reports